If These Walls Could Talk: A Short History of The Surfboard Factory At Wheal Kitty
Updated: Feb 27
Once a surfboard factory, always a surfboard factory.
The keys to Number Three, Wheal Kitty Workshops have passed through several hands since it first opened under the ownership of Peter “Chops” Lascelles, and have now come full circle to the open arms of Chops’ youngest son, Cord Surfboards owner and head shaper Markie Lascelles.
Wheal Kitty was the former site of a tin and copper mine on the northeast edge of St Agnes that closed in the 1930s. The Lascelles family lived just up the lane from the iconic old wheal (engine) house, and in 1986 Australian transplant Chops set up and ran his surfboard business, Laminations (who produced Cord Surfboards and Beach Beat Surfboards) out of the back yard of the old Count House. In the 1990s Cornwall Council redeveloped the site, and Laminations and Surfers Against Sewage were the first two businesses to take up residence in the new workshops on the cliff top above Trevaunance Cove.
Markie’s elder brother Sean played the opening party with his band, Real-Y-T, and Markie remembers being 8 years old and stoked on the new surfboard factory.
“As with the old factory it was a centre of surf community, both local and international. A place that gave many local lads their breaks in industry, and where the Lascelles groms were often better behaved than the adults!”
- Steve England, Editor, Carve Magazine
Laminations, with Chops at the helm, grew a reputation for diligently pumping out hand-shaped, consistently epic surfboards - the now-retro decals for which Markie discovered stacked in drawers, a quarter of a century on. Whilst the factory has changed hands several times over the years, the walls retain the graffiti and scrawled names and phone numbers of surf industry luminaries that have passed through: the likes of Swilly, Rooster and Carve Magazine to name a few.
Around 2006 Chops sold the factory to a few of the team who had been working with him, who kept the Laminations name. Jeremy Walters, Stevie Two Fins and Kev White took over, finishing Cord and Beachbeat boards for Chops (who had moved his shaping to a new unit on the other side of St Agnes) whilst running the Laminations show themselves. Time passed and the boys went their separate ways, with Jeremy keeping it going until early 2012 when it got too tough financially. With the passing of Chops, Markie and Skindog continued to shape out of the then-Laminations, but headed to Newquay after a few years.
Enter Steve Hewlett, owner of Tregenna Castle Hotel in St. Ives, and the factory became Walters Surf for a short-lived period before Mark Anderson, owner of creative agency Sideways on the opposite side of the yard at Wheal Kitty, partnered with Jeremy, founded Open and turned the factory around in a way no one had thought possible.
Mark and Emily Anderson launched Open in 2018, welcoming guest shapers and changing the vibe entirely. No longer just a factory, they shook up the aesthetic and began reaching an international audience of aesthetically inclined surfers. Stripping back the interior, they white-washed the walls and vaulted ceiling, packed it with plants, invited visitors in and created a space that was equal parts surfboard factory/showroom/coffee shop/plant store/barbers. You could now find demo boards to borrow, carefully curated books to flick through with friends, beautiful bits of kit and handmade boards from internationally acclaimed shapers that were previously unavailable in England, let alone the Duchy. Open’s personable and effortless vibe attracted surfers from near and far, placing it on the map as THE place to visit when in Cornwall.
“What a great outcome from a dreadful time” is the apt way that St Agnes resident Matt Smith described what happened next.
Following a tragic turn of events, Open closed and the factory became available once again. With Markie’s history with the site, when Emily decided to close Open and he was approached as a potential new tenant he saw that a once in a lifetime opportunity was presenting itself. It was now his time. After 25 years the surfboard factory at Wheal Kitty would once again be Lascelles owned and run, and Cord Surfboards had been brought full circle.
Markie was given the keys at the start of 2023, taking the reigns to the place where he spent so much of his childhood, and stepping into his dad’s shoes and shaping bay.
Plans are already well underway, with the arrival of a new state of the art shaping machine imminent, the racks slowly filling up with shiny new Cord surfboards and a stoked team working on customs and stock shapes alike. Every step of Cord's surfboard manufacturing process, from shaping through to final sanding, is now back under one roof and it feels great. Markie has already shaped himself a new board in his factory, complete with one of his Dad’s old decals found stashed under layers of history in the back of the shaping bay. The future of Cord Surfboards at Wheal Kitty is bright, and we’re stoked to be continuing Chops and Uncle Humphrey’s legacy.
“This is the factory I grew up in. The place I fell in love with surfboards in. The one located above my favourite place to surf (when it plays ball) and also two seconds walk from my Mum’s house, where we all grew up. I never thought I’d own this place, it has always been a dream though. I can’t wait to get started and to take the reigns for my go.”
- Markie Lascelles
Visit our new showroom to talk boards and browse our stock models.